Traditional media and many tech mavens are elated that Elon Musk’s Twitter deal is now shaky. It’s no secret that they were unhappy with it and with him. The New York Times launched an extraordinary attack on Musk on May 5, tweeting “Elon Musk grew up in elite white communities in South Africa, detached from apartheid’s atrocities and surrounded by anti-Black propaganda. He sees his takeover of Twitter as a free speech win but in his youth did not suffer the effects of misinformation.”
In reality, Musk left for Canada at the age of 17, to avoid serving in the South African military, whose principal purpose was to oppress black South Africans. He had Canadian citizenship by way of his mother, who was born in the province of Saskatchewan. He has other extensive ties to Canada.
He attended Queen’s University in Kingston in the province of Ontario, though he transferred to the University of Pennsylvania before taking a degree in Economics and Physics. He ended up founding a software business with his brother Kimbal.
Now, Associated Press has launched an attack on Musk with a theme in common with that of The New York Times: Worry over Musk’s desire to support free speech:
But for all Musk’s confidence, he risks running afoul of Apple and Google, which power most of the world’s smartphones. Both have stringent policies against misinformation, hate speech and other misconduct, previously enforced to boot apps like the social media platform Parler from their devices…
Musk, who waxes about preserving Twitter as the public square of the internet, hasn’t addressed what he’d do if his efforts to open it to more voices wind up jeopardizing its accessibility.Tom Krisher, Michael Liedtke and Adam Geller, “Elon Musk, an erratic visionary, revels in contradiction” at Associated Press (May 11, 2022)
AP also tweeted, “Elon Musk boasts that he’s acquiring Twitter to defend freedom of speech. But he has long used the platform to attack those who disagree with him.”
Doubtless, but that’s part of what free speech is and it’s only in recent years that traditional media have begun to see it as a problem and to support (or demand) censorship.
Today, AP reported, Musk put the $44B Twitter buy on hold:
Musk tweeted early Friday that he wanted to pinpoint the number of spam and fake accounts on the social media platform. He has been vocal about his desire to clean up Twitter’s problem with “spam bots” that mimic real people, and he appeared to question whether Twitter was underreporting them.
But the company has disclosed in regulatory filings that its bot estimates might be low for at least two years, leading some analysts to believe that Musk could be raising the issue as a reason to back out of the purchase.
“Twitter deal temporarily on hold pending details supporting calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5% of users,” Musk tweeted Friday morning, indicating he’s skeptical that the number of inauthentic accounts is that low.Kelvin Chan and Tom Krisher, “Musk puts Twitter buy ‘on hold,’ casting doubt on $44B deal” at Associated Press (Musk puts Twitter buy ‘on hold,’ casting doubt on $44B deal) (May 13, 2022)
Surely, Musk knew about the well-known and much-discussed problem of the Twitterbot. On the other hand, he may have discovered that the problem is worse than advertised in Twitter’s regulatory filings, etc. He now wants calculations. A question naturally arises, how easy would the problem — correctly calculated — be to fix? How seriously does the Twitter culture wish to take it?
At Fortune, Jacob Carpenter offers “Elon Musk’s latest feint shows he’s clearly in charge of the $44 billion Twitter deal,” treating his move as a manipulation. Some think that, rather than wanting to walk away, Musk wants to “renegotiate the price.” That would make sense, actually, if getting rid of the bots turned out to be more expensive than anticipated.
Meanwhile, the stock price plunged 10% in trading this morning.
A couple of things are clear: The media and the Big Tech establishment do not want Musk to take over Twitter, especially because they fear free speech. They will do and say whatever it takes. Second, Musk is not easily deterred. The story continues.
You may also wish to read:
Can Elon Musk really stop Big Tech from controlling us? We usually don’t realize how far it has already gone in efforts to control our thinking. Andrew McDiarmid talks about how we — never mind Musk — can take control back from Big Tech. (Denyse O’Leary)